Who Are We ?
In 1984 a small walking holiday company was created, based in the beautiful Val d’Azun in the heart of the French Pyrenees. This company, named « La Balaguère » after the warm breeze that blows upwards from the Sahara to the Pyrenees, offered guided walking trips led by a small group of friends with a huge passion for the mountains.
Little by little La Balaguère expanded and more than 35 years later we help over 13,000 people every year enjoy walking and cycling holidays in the Pyrenees and further afield, to the most unspoilt areas of the world.
In 2018 we launched a new and exciting project. Purely Pyrenees is the English language branch of our business, offering self-guided and guided trips, walking and cycling from Spring to Autumn and snowshoeing in the Winter. Using our decades of experience we created a new range of holidays designed for English speakers who come, maybe for the first time, to experience the best the Pyrenees has to offer. Our focus is always to provide highlights, iconic places to visit, wonderful itineraries, authentic hotels and, of course, tremendous cuisine.
Purely Pyrenees and La Balaguère are now owned by the UCPA (Union des Centres Sportifs de Plein Air) which is a non-profit organisation in France that specialises in making outdoor sports holidays available for all. We are still based where we have always been, in the Pyrenean village of Arrens-Marsous.
We are very proud of our Pyrenean chain and of the knowledge that we have of it, amassed over years of providing guided and self-guided holidays. You can be sure that if you travel with us we will do everything we can to make sure you have a wonderful trip.
Mountain hiking, whether it is practiced in the summer or winter, is a physical activity and a sport in its own right. It is important that the practicant has suitable material and a level of physical fitness conducive with the type and length of hiking to be undertaken. Here are some simple and practical tips for your equipment and clothing.
To be comfortable in one's shoes, that is to say you need walking shoes or boots that are well worn in to avoid getting blisters. In the worst case scenario, if you are obliged to travel with new walking shoes or boots, you can stap your feet up to prevent blisters appearing, this method is effective and inexpensive.
A good pair of shoes must, above all, be comfortable, and not at all painful to walk in. You need to be at ease, make sure you have tested them out well before leaving on your walking trip. Whatever the difficulty of the planned hike, the sole must be of a good quality, that is to say well sewn and non-slippery on varied and wet terrain (vibram or a similar type). To protect your ankles a boot with high sides is by far the preferable style, to avoid trauma to the back and joints, it is a good idea to have a shock absorbing sole interposed between the foot and the sole itself.
For intensive use, the quality of materials and seams is paramount. Of course it is also good to renew your shoes or boots every few years. Good old faithfuls may seem like they are going to be comfy but if you haven’t used them for a while they could well give up on you on the second day!
Walking sticks are actually very useful during steep climbs or descents, when you have a heavy bag, or a few problems with your joints. But apart from these cases, they do not help you to walk better, and are not totally indispensable.
Avoid taking a "city" backpack, so small that you can not put anything in it,except for your packet of tissues. A 30 litre rucksuck is ideal for day hikes.
Even when you have your main luggage transported from your start point to your finish point it is essential to have a backpack. Why ? ... because hiking requires a minimum of autonomy: on a day hike for example, it is essential to bring a warm top, rain wear, a picnic and a water bottle. Many others things could be added to this list, a camera, cutlery, sunscreen, etc ...
Your choice of rucksack will directly effect your comfort, and therefore your pleasure, during your hike.
Take a bag which is the right size or even a little bigger ( too big is not a problem, on the contrary) :
Take a strong bag ( these exist even in small sizes) with padded shoulder straps, a supple back plate, a belt, made from durable fabric (and you'll keep your bag all your life).
These are the articles that must be included for a mountain hike :
Depending on which trip you are doing we would advise you to bring a warm jacket in addition.
The invention of synthetic textiles with remarkable qualities allows you today to be fully equipped for a reduced weight. Only underwear deserves to be taken in sufficient quantity to be changed regularly.
Regarding rainwear: rain capes or "ponchos" are very effective on the waterproof side, and they completely protect your rucksack from the rain. But as soon as you have to be careful where you tread on certain passages or when there is a lot of wind, it becomes impossible to see where you putting your feet.
In contrast, a classic rain jacket is perfect. For the backpack you can purchase a bag cover (not expensive) and if you really want to keep your items dry you can line the rucksack with a black rubbish bag ( 100% efficiency guaranteed).
You should think about taking :
In the case of a hike that uses gîtes or refuges also think about taking :
A list of equipment adapted to each trip is included in the your practical information sheet. In general people often set off with too much equipment. Remember that with hiking experience you will soon become acustomed to which items are relevant and which are not, compared to the weight they add to your load.
It must be big (80 L) and solid, if possible in the shape of a holdall, especially if it going to be hung on pack animals (suitcases forbidden in this case) ... All your equipment must fit into this one bag. It is imperative to limit the weight of the items you bring (12 Kg is the maximum for a week): It is not a holiday if you are carrying all but the kitchen sink, on the contrary, this precious time should be occupied by discovery, encounters and contemplation.
Be careful, do not bring fragile things that could be damaged during luggage transfers.
For all our hikes and trips, which can take you far from medical centres, it is important to bring a personal first aid kit, depending on the destination, which should include at least :
Choose carefully the level of difficulty of your trip, if you are not used to walking at all, it is best to prepare a little in advance. The other advantage of this preparation is it also allows you to soften new shoes if necessary.
Have a great hike !